Returning to the Romanticism of St. Lucia

BY ANNE KAZEL-WILCOX

It’s early evening as my husband and I sit on a white sandy beach, tropical trees surrounding us and the waves of the Caribbean Sea lapping at the shore. We have views of St. Lucia’s capital, the harbor city of Castries, and in the distance the hazy glow of the neighboring island of Martinique.

We’re at a luxury resort called Rendezvous, having a private candlelit dinner on the beach. To drown out the gusts of laughter coming from the resort bar, my husband tunes in his iPhone to the three tenors—Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras—and sitting there, with the sea, sand and opera as our backdrop, the two of us return to the romanticism of St. Lucia where we were married 20 years prior. Ours was a barefoot-style romance back then: married on a resort beach at sunset, dressed in simple white elegance, in our bare feet with just a few family members in attendance, but the tunes back then were that of steel drums rather than tenors. My husband and I had not been back to the island since. Was it as romantic and beautiful as we remember? Could we possibly recapture special moments
in time that might never be forgotten, as we had 20 years ago? It didn’t take long to find out.

I was told the adults-only luxury Rendezvous resort is a place where we could “reconnect… remember why you’re together to begin with,” and in just 48 hours, that’s the magical thing that happens on St. Lucia. The island’s relaxing atmosphere, natural beauty, incredibly gracious people and a good dose of Rendezvous luxury, allow my husband and I to let down our hair and laugh and love again. St. Lucia delivers on her promise, with the romanticism just beginning.

ICONIC PEAKS OF ST. LUCIA
St. Lucia is “down-island,” meaning it is among the southern islands of the Caribbean. It’s said the island is shaped like a mango, and surely it is ripe with natural riches. Most beautiful of all are its two lush, majestic peaks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton (Big Point and Little Point), which rise out of the ocean near the seaside  village of Soufriere, to the south of Castries. The peaks are like natural sentries, overlooking some of the most beautiful natural sights of the island, the larger of the two pitons towering at over 2,500 feet and often shrouded in a mystical mist. In the surrounding area are a plethora of worthwhile soft adventures: guided tours along the Tet Paul nature trail; a “drive-through” volcano with natural sulfur springs where visitors can take mud baths; ziplining above rainforests; tours of a cocoa plantation, Fond Doux, that makes chocolate and has beautiful botanical gardens; and more. Ambitious adventurers can also climb Gros Piton.

While I recall pursuing a few of those activities on my last trip, this time my favorite adventure involves an entirely different view of the pitons. Following a short stay at the Rendezvous resort, my husband and I settle in at another luxury resort, Ti-Kaye Resort & Spa, which is also for adults only. From Ti-Kaye, I embark upon a boat that whisks me alongside St. Lucia’s west coast, south to the pitons. There, I see the pitons from a view 40 to 75 feet down—scuba diving. The towering walls topside descend at steep inclines into the colorful coral landscape of the deep with fabulously rich marine life and bountiful schools of fish. The dives are absolutely wonderful.

Back topside at Ti-Kaye, my husband I revel in our private sanctuary—a cottage called Lanmou that in creole means “Love.” (St. Lucia has both French and British influence.) Other cottages, among 33 accommodations at this boutique resort, have names like DouDou (sweetheart), Kankannez (troublemaker), and Oswe’a (tonight’s the night). The name Ti-Kaye itself means “little house,” and in fact, the bungalow accommodations look like small St. Lucian style houses complete with pretty gingerbread woodwork on the exteriors. Within, I barely want to leave our private outdoor deck complete with hammock, plunge pool, and gorgeous views of the Caribbean and crescent-shaped beach below, Anse Cochon—one of the ‹nest beaches on the island. At night, we leave the French doors to our deck wide open, allowing gentle trade winds to rue the protective netting that surrounds our four-poster bed.

Ti-Kaye is a contrast from Rendezvous. The latter was a fairly active place with its menu of on-site activities ranging from Pilates by the sea, garden walks and “art at sunset,” to samba lessons and a sommelier’s wine tasting. There was live entertainment every evening and ample opportunity for mingling with other couples at the resort’s large outdoor terrace overlooking a wide windswept beach.

Ti-Kaye, on the other hand, is mostly about seclusion, and I find myself barely wanting to leave my bungalow deck. That is, except for stepping out to the resort’s exceptional dining—or a visit to the wine cellar that is one of the largest in the Caribbean. In the charming cellar, which can host private tastings, I scan the 500+ varieties, staying clear of the column with a vintage priced at $2,394 (Chateaux Margot, Margot 1996), afraid that bumping into it means buying it, were it to break. The glassed-in bar is a safer bet with good vantage points for enjoying romantic sunsets and rum concoctions. I’m told that the local spice rum is especially a “magical drink,” also known as a “babymaker.” Given that I have three teenage kids, I stay away from that rum but hear it flows in abundance at two large street parties held every Friday night. One is in the ‚fishing village of Ansel Le Rey, not far from the Ti-Kaye Resort, and the other to the north at Gros Islet in pretty Rodney Bay. At both, locals and tourists alike mingle, “No pressure, no problems,” as the St. Lucia saying goes.

ULTRA-LUXURY & UNASSUMING
There are numerous luxury resorts on the north end of St. Lucia near Castries, like Rendezvous, and some ultra-luxury resorts to the south near the pitons. Ti-Kaye, however, is fairly central between north and south, allowing easy jaunts in either direction. But it is to the south—to Soufriere and the pitons—that I am drawn back. There, 20 years ago, my husband and I stayed for part of our honeymoon in a small, unassuming resort called The Hummingbird. (Hummingbirds did frequent the place). I mention the resort to my taxi driver one day, and he says it’s steps from his family’s restaurant, Captain Hook’s Hideaway (which has tasty creole dishes, by the way).

We will be passing by Hummingbird on our nature outing, so I hijack my driver and we divert to Hummingbird. The resort is smaller and more modest than I remember, but the views of the pitons are as glorious as ever, and I discover that the same warm host, Joyce, is still running the place 20 years later. I remember
it was she and some wonderful staff—and views of the pitons—that made our honeymoon stay there so special. There was no need for $1,000-a-night rooms back then, and probably not now since gracious St. Lucia hospitality never goes out of style. So, while my husband and I enjoy indulging in newer boutique resorts on an anniversary visit, there remains a special spot for the St. Lucia that ‚first warmed our hearts. Next time, we won’t wait so many anniversaries to return to the romanticism of St. Lucia.